The Creed of Chalcedon
We Are Not Alone
We then following the holy fathers, all with one consent…
As I have reached the end of the New Testament and forbear to begin the Old with just a few weeks remaining of the liturgical year, which outcome happened to me last year when I had too few days to begin another book of holy Scripture, I shall fill these last few weeks as I did before. Last year I took up the Nicene Creed. This year I shall take up the Creed of Chalcedon.
Whereas the Creed of Nicaea (325) attempted to clarify matters concerning our Lord’s relationship to the Father, that of Chalcedon (451) attempted to do the same concerning the relationship between our Lord’s person and his divine and human natures. Whereas Arianism was the heresy at Nicaea which the bishops there condemned (which heresy taught that Christ was less than the Father), the bishops at Chalcedon had to battle with Monophysites, who so completely absorbed Christ’s human nature into his divine as to leave nothing human remaining in him, while at the same time not falling into the opposite error of Nestorianism condemned at the Council of Ephesus in 431, which heresy so separated our Lord’s human and divine natures so as to leave him a mere holy man or even schizophrenic. The fathers at Chalcedon laid down the formula we now call the Creed of Chalcedon in which they concluded that Christ was one person with both human and divine natures. These foundational and nonnegotiable doctrines of the faith we take for granted thinking we came to them ourselves reading our Bibles at the kitchen table. No so. These doctrines were hard-won by reference to what orthodox churches had always taught everywhere through meditation and study on the apostolic doctrine in the word of God.
I have room left just to take the first few words: “We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent….” Though we should read our Bibles everyday that we may grow in grace, perhaps the greatest fault of evangelicalism is its exaltation of individualism over tradition—whereby I mean the “Great Tradition” of the teachers of the Church. What has been taught always, everywhere, and in all places has long been the touchstone of orthodoxy. We owe to previous generations the faith they have handed-down to us—from our grandparents back to the believers at Pentecost and Antioch. We ignore these early creeds at the peril of slipping again into the heresies they condemned. We stand on the shoulders of others, and it is only arrogance which keeps us from listening to them. We need the creeds.